Amtrak’s Coast Starlight – A Different Kind of Wine Train

I recently learned that Sleeping Car passengers on two Amtrak routes – the Coast Starlight and Empire Builder – are offered a complimentary wine and cheese tasting.  Maintaining a certain balance and harmony with the travel, the wine and cheese selections Amtrak serves are chosen from areas and locales along the respective routes.  The Coast Starlight is a route between Seattle and LA.  Washington and California?  Those are two of the best known and most productive wine regions in the United States.  Now you see what I mean about this being a different kind of wine train!  So … what can you get in a Sleeping Car on the Coast Starlight?  The wines available are Summerland Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Rabbit Ridge Zinfandel, J Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, Wente Riverbank Riesling, Firesteed Pinot Gris, Hogue Genesis Syrah, Milbrandt Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Traditions Series, and Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling.

As I live in the eastern U.S., I probably won’t have the chance to experience the Coast Starlight in the very near future.  I would love to, of course.  Can you imagine the scenery passengers are treated to?  [You won’t see it if you’re sleeping, though.  Ha!]  No, that experience will just have to go onto my bucket list.  Instead, for now I will have to content myself with grabbing one of the wines on their menu and doing a wine tasting of my own while I daydream about it all.  Well … it’s better than nothing!

Winemaker:  Chateau Ste. Michelle
Varietal:  Riesling
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Columbia Valley, Washington
Price:  $12.99

Notes:  The color of this Riesling was literally a barely-there wash of pale yellow.  I smelled pear and citrus in the bouquet.  This was a light-bodied wine, and the acidity was quite bright.  In fact, there was a very light effervescence to this wine as it first hit the tongue.  I like that in a Riesling.  Alcohol comes in at 11.5% on this Chateau Ste. Michelle selection which makes it a bit sweet.  Thus, you get a back-and-forth on the palate between the acidity and residual sugar – tart and sweet.  Flavors for me were pear and citrus with some hints of kiwi.  On the finish I got a nice zing of lemongrass.  At times – in particular as the wine warmed – the sweetness was very present.  I also tasted some peach as the wine lost it’s chill.  All in all, it was most definitely a pleasant wine.  I could certainly see this paired nicely with a young cheese or (because of the sweet component) with some spicy Asian food.  After all, there are several dishes at my favorite Thai restaurant that include lemongrass.

By the way, this post is a response to the first in a series of wine-blogger challenges.  The Drunken Cyclist threw down the gauntlet and called on us to write a wine blog post around the theme of transportation.  Finally, if you’re interested in taking a trip on the Coast Starlight, here is the Current Schedule.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

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